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Originally published Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:35 PM

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Guest: Supporting education whether you have $10,000 or $10

Everyone, of any means, can make a difference in education for Washington children, writes guest columnist Scott Carson.

Special to The Times

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MOST people agree that the Washington state must invest more money in public education. Not only has the state Supreme Court mandated it, voters also consistently demand it. But an increase in state funding isn’t enough. You and I need to invest, too.

My wife and I have been very fortunate in life, finding ourselves in a position to invest in those things we are passionate about. But everyone, of any means, can make a difference in education for Washington children.

From early childhood to college, education fuels our hope for the future. If we want the Puget Sound region and our nation to succeed, we must produce many more highly educated leaders for tomorrow than we do today: people who have developed the curiosity and the intellectual capacity to explore, to discover, to make our world a better place.

It all starts before children even enter school. For example, Childhaven provides early education to children under the age of six who have been abused and neglected. Early education makes it possible for children who are most at risk of failure to learn how to learn, trust and engage.

The brains of these traumatized children have atrophied from the psychological effects of their abuse. Without the early intervention that Childhaven provides, reversing the effects of abuse on their brains, they face a tremendous academic hardship. The combination of child trauma therapy, early learning and social-skill development creates enormous potential. That’s the kind of investment that pays off for generations.

So is investing in teaching. When my wife and I got involved with Aviation High School in the Highline School District, we were astonished to see how deeply engaged the students were.

I was a not-so-engaged student myself in high school. Like many students, it seemed difficult to find relevance in the process. Certainly there was an expectation of completing the experience but it did not connect with me.

So why are some kids turned on and others, like me, turned off? I was curious about why some teachers make that connection and whether that could be replicated as part of their preparation.

A study of the success observed at places like Aviation High School or the other successful STEM programs in our state is under way, with the help of private funding, at Washington State University.

Can the excitement be replicated throughout the public education system? We believe the answer is yes and look forward to the results of this study.

A college degree is out of reach financially for so many bright young people today. One of the best ways to support students is by supporting scholarships through the College Success Foundation, which builds college awareness and readiness among low-income students in middle and high school.

Once scholarship winners are enrolled in college, the foundation continues to mentor them through graduation and then provides them with career networking opportunities.

That support during college is key. The Carson Center for Student Success at WSU College of Business, another organization we invested in, is the centralized place for counseling, academic advising, internship, scholarship, student clubs and outreach to the corporate community.

This philosophy of education for ages 3 to 23, so well-championed by The Seattle Times over the past year, benefits each and every one of us. The students of today are the scientists, artists, civic leaders and corporate leaders of tomorrow. They will be supporting each of us for generations to come.

Whether you have $10,000 to invest or $10, adopting a strategic approach to education-focused philanthropy is one of the best moves you can make for today and for the future.

Scott Carson retired as president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes in 2009 after 38 years with the company.

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